Fighting For Community

In his classic book on community, Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer cautioned that, “He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.”

I’ve been thinking about that idea since this past Sunday’s sermon at Restoration City. We talked about the idea that biblical community is a beautiful destination that requires us to walk a difficult road. We love the idea of living in a community where we are at peace with one another (1 Thessalonians 5:13) and where we are mutually committed to each other’s best interests (1 Thessalonians 5:15). But we forget that this kind of community requires the courage to admonish one another, to comfort one another, to help one another, and to be patient with one another (1 Thessalonians 5:14). We love the dream but are often unwilling to do the work. We think we’re going to stumble into honest conversations, meaningful relationships, and the transforming joy that comes from being fully known and fully loved.

But it just doesn’t work that way.

Community requires work and courage. It requires us to go to the weekly gathering of a church rather than watch online. It requires us to go to community group when we would rather crash on the couch. It requires us to approach others in love and curiosity, not with cynicism and detachment. It requires us to be honest and it requires us to honor the moments when others chose to be honest with us.

Here’s the thing: the messy reality of community is infinitely better than our airbrushed dreams. But we’ve got to work for it. We’ve got to fight for it.

What’s one way you’ve been fighting for community in your life?

Photo by Valiant Made on Unsplash

This Fall At Restoration City

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These are really special days for us as a church.

It’s Wednesday morning and I’m still celebrating everything we saw God do this past weekend.  We planted Restoration City for days like last Sunday – days of salvation and days of celebration.  By God’s grace, the dream of a vibrant community that loves Jesus, one another and this city is becoming a reality.  And I believe God has so much more in store for all of us.

Over the last weeks, I’ve been praying the heart of 1 Thessalonians 1:5 over our church; that the gospel would come to us “not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”  Yes, it’s important that we sing the gospel and preach the gospel on Sundays.  Yes, the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rm.1:16).  Yes, our church is shaped by the gospel.  But if that ever becomes simply text on a website or doctrine in our heads, we’re in trouble.

I’m praying we will hunger and thirst for the power of God in our lives, in our church and in our city.  That’s what we need – the Holy Spirit of God to save sinners and send saints.  We need the rushing wind of God’s grace and love to blow through our Community Groups.  We need to be caught up in something so much bigger than ourselves. Something that can only be explained by the power of God.

I believe God wants to use 1 Thessalonians 1:5 to shape not just one weekend at Restoration City but this whole fall.  We’ve got an incredible few weeks ahead leading into ServeDC on October 27-30th.  I’m praying it’s a season of new life in Christ and new boldness in mission.  I’m praying we’ll be carried by the power of the Spirit like never before.

Will you join me in three simple commitments for this fall?

  1. Regularly praying 1 Thessalonians 1:5 over our church and your life.
  2. Boldly engaging with those around us who don’t know Jesus.  Invest in their lives.  Invite them to church.  Introduce them to Jesus.
  3. Welcoming those who are new to Jesus or church into our Sunday gatherings and Community Groups.

Nothing profound.  Just simple ways of participating in what God’s doing in our church and city.

I’ve never been more excited about what God is doing through our church than I am right now.  I pray we steward this season well.  I pray we’re able to hold out the grace and truth of Jesus in a way that’s worthy of the God we love so much.  I pray we see Him do what we can’t even imagine.  And I pray we never lose sight of the privilege it is to be a part of this together.

Learners Pray

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Monday was awesome – I got to spend the entire day with my two favorite boys on the planet.  It was also a little scary because my favorite person on the planet, Laura, was with her Mom in Richmond.  So, it was just me and the boys!

I can tell you this – one day flying solo with those two did wonders for my prayer life.  I don’t know that I’ve ever lived out 1 Thessalonians 5:17 so faithfully, “pray without ceasing.”  Everything we did was a prompt to pray – diaper changes, making lunch, going to the park, nap time…everything!

As soon as I got out of my comfort zone, I started praying like a spiritual hero.  But on days when I stay in my comfort zone, it’s way too easy to pray like a spiritual zero.  I still believe the primary culprits in our prayerlessness are pride and a small view of God.  But complacency certainly fans the flames of spiritual lethargy.  The honest reality is that I don’t feel the same compulsion to pray in areas of my life where I’m not stretched.  Meetings, emails and blog posts come naturally to me and, yes, I usually pray for God’s guidance but not with the same intensity I prayed in the face of a screaming 7 month old who was starving but also refusing to take his bottle because I was doing something wrong.

We would pray more if we got out of our comfort zone more.

In a recent Forbes magazine article, Erika Anderson writes about a new FIELD immersion learning program available to Harvard MBA’s.  The goal is to get these students out of the classroom and into the real world.  She writes:

“When you’re really learning – acquiring new skills or understanding, behaving and operating in new ways – you’re going to be a novice.  That means you’re not going to be an expert, and you won’t have all the answers.  You’ll make mistakes and have to ask “dumb” questions, and you’ll have ideas that you think are genius that will turn out not to work at all.

And becoming comfortable in that situation – staying curious and open and continuing to explore and improve – that’s the essence of real learning.”

We don’t learn and grow in our comfort zones.  Real learning only happens when we leave safety, security and predictability behind.  So, here’s my question for you today: where are you uncomfortable?  Where does life feel a little scary, a little exhilarating and a little uncertain?

If the answer is nowhere, odds are good you aren’t growing.  I would also venture to say odds are good you aren’t praying either.  Our souls and our minds expand when we find the courage to stretch, to learn and to grow.